MOUND CITY, Kan. — The judge leaned back in his chair and listened as the attorneys went at it, arguing about stones dug out of the African desert, gems grabbed from Asian jewel cutters and secret bank accounts in Gibraltar and Hong Kong.
As divorce cases in farming towns go, this one involved a tad more — What? International intrigue? — than usual.
Especially when the angry wife had enlisted an Army investigator, now a local sheriff's detective — with whom, by the way, she shares living arrangements — to help her chase those jewels around the globe.
So folks in the Linn County Courthouse — where divorce proceedings are more apt to be about splitting up the acreage and who gets the bass boat — will talk about Johnston vs. Johnston for some time.
If this case were a Hollywood script, it might begin as "Blood Diamond" then tailspin into "War of the Roses."
Chris and Karen Johnston both worked in the gem and jewelry business. They went to Namibia, where the gems are, but the company they worked for got caught up in regional wars over diamonds. They eventually set up their own mine in the desert, sending their stones to Bangkok for cutting and polishing.
Then the marriage fell apart in 2006. Fast forward to mid-April:
Chris Johnston, 56, was released after 72 days in jail for falling behind on child support. The Linn County judge let him have his passport back.
Karen Johnston, 58, is unhappy about both developments. She says that’s the last she will see of her ex-husband, who returned to Africa last week.
And Gary Stone, the Linn County sheriff’s detective, does not see any conflict of interest between living with Karen Johnston and his past efforts to put Chris Johnston in jail.
Like many ex-wives, Karen thinks the former spouse is getting away with hidden assets, millions of dollars worth in this case. Like many ex-husbands, Chris says he is essentially broke and that his ex-wife’s greed knows no bounds.
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